Tour Description

Oodnadatta Track

(Combined Departure)
Seven Days: 20 – 26 August 2021

Twin Share: $3095 per person. Sole Use: $3575 per person.

Included in the tour:
  • Home pick-ups & set downs (most metro areas – please contact us for details)
  • Picnic-style morning teas & all meals as per the itinerary
  • All accommodation & admissions to all attractions
  • Experienced & informative tour driver/guide.

 

Join us for a special tour of the Oodnadatta Track, as we follow a section of the original Old Ghan Railway between Maree and William Creek. We try our luck in the opal mining town of Coober Pedy, experience the spectacular colours and patterns of Lake Eyre and appreciate sculpture in the most unexpected place! We take in the colours and patterns of Lake Eyre, before joining the Track and exploring many of the highlights of Outback South Australia. Don’t miss this opportunity to join us on some of the roads less travelled!

 

Day One – FRIDAY 20 AUGUST 2021

(includes light lunch and two course dinner)

We depart this morning after home pick ups (limited areas*). While settling in and becoming acquainted with those around us we quickly leave the suburbs of Adelaide behind. Heading through towns such as Two Wells, Dublin and Port Wakefield, we stop for morning tea along the way.

We continue past Lake Bumbunga at Lochiel and further north we leave the highway, detouring through  Crystal Brook and Laura, at the southern end of the Flinders Ranges. Around lunchtime we arrive at the Stone Hut Bakery, well known for their delicious home baked goods.

From Stone Hut, we travel a short distance north to Wirrabara, a town known for its forestry heritage being the home of the first Government Forest nursery in Australia in the 1870’s. While here, we will stop to admire the stunning artwork which adorns the town’s silos. Completed in late 2018 by artist Sam Bates, better known as ‘Smug’, the artwork celebrates Wirrabara’s connection to the forestry industry, as well as the local flora and fauna.

From here we continue through Melrose to Wilmington before we detour onto Horrocks Pass to enjoy the stunning Southern Flinders Ranges views. Re-joining the highway, it’s not long before we arrive in Port Augusta. Colonised in 1852, it was originally the thriving commercial centre and port that served the needs of northern hinterland pastoralists. When the Indian Pacific Railway was completed in 1917 the town started to become the pivotal transport hub that we are more familiar with today. Our accommodation for tonight is at the Standpipe Golf Motor Inn (Ph: 08 8642 4033).

Day Two – SATURDAY 21 AUGUST 2021

(includes cooked breakfast, light lunch and two course dinner)

This morning we farewell our hosts and travel north along the Stuart Highway, which stretches from Port Augusta all the way to Darwin. The highway was named after the explorer John McDouall-Stuart, whose path we will follow on our exploration of the Oodnadatta Track.

As we travel, the landscape changes dramatically to one of rugged outback beauty. We take a slight detour off the highway to enjoy our morning tea at Woomera. Established in the 1940s as a site for weapons testing, satellite launches and tracking of early lunar and planetary spacecraft, access to the town was restricted to the public until 1982 when it was opened up to all. We take a look around the town to learn more about its fascinating history before continuing our journey.

Our travels continue north through the outback town of Glendambo where we stop for lunch and onto Coober Pedy in the late afternoon. This remarkable town owes its existence to the opal discovered in the area in 1915, when 14 year old Willie Hutchison found the first shimmering gemstone. Since then, miners have come from more than 50 nations to find their fortunes, and many have succeeded. The town takes its name from two Aboriginal words meaning ’white man in a hole’. We check into our accommodation for the next two nights at the Desert Cave Motel (Ph: 08 8672 5688).

Day Three – SUNDAY 22 AUGUST 2021

(includes cooked breakfast, light lunch and two course dinner)

Today we take the opportunity to look around this fascinating opal mining town and the magnificent country that surrounds it.

Following breakfast we head out to Kanku-Breakaways Conservation Park. This striking rocky landscape was once covered by inland sea, but today, the flat-topped mesas are home to a variety of flora and fauna that have adapted to this harsh environment.

As we return to Coober Pedy we will pass the dog fence, a two metre high wire barrier which stretches over 5,000 kilometres across three states. Its purpose is to protect the sheep country in the south from the native dingo.

Back in town we stop for morning tea refreshments before visiting some of the more unique attractions of Coober Pedy. One of these is the Serbian Orthodox Church, an inspiring structure with rock carvings in the walls, a high roof and stained glass windows.

After lunch we visit the award winning Umoona Opal Mine, a walk-in underground mine. Here we will gain insight into life as an opal miner and see what it was like digging for opal in an authentic mine. We can experience underground living in the display home, and watch a multi award winning documentary “The Story Of Opal” in the panoramic theatre. We are also able to visit the showroom which houses a range of exclusive opal jewellery, rough or cut opal, plus opalised fossils and specimens.

We return to our motel with time to relax and freshen up before dinner.

Day Four – MONDAY 23 AUGUST 2021

(includes cooked breakfast, light lunch and two course dinner)

After breakfast, we farewell our hosts and travel east to William Creek. This remote outback town is home to the William Creek Hotel, campground, air strip and the ‘museum’, which is an outdoor collection of artefacts from the Old Ghan Railway line and Woomera Rocket Range. What the town lacks in infrastructure, it makes up for in character and hospitality!

We arrive around lunchtime and enjoy refreshments at the hotel before embarking on a scenic flight over Lake Eyre and the Painted Hills! Definitely a highlight of our tour, the flight is with the highly-regarded Wrightsair, who have been flying in this area for many years.

The breathtaking Painted Hills, are located on Anna Creek Cattle Station, the largest working cattle station in the world, covering well over 15,000 square kilometres. The Painted Hills are only accessible by air due to the remote and fragile nature of the site. We will be able to see the intricate details of the beautifully eroded shelf that once belonged to the great inland sea.

When established in 1863, Anna Creek was originally a sheep station, but due to the loss of countless animals from dingo attacks, the property changed its focus. The Station was purchased by the Williams Cattle Company in 2016; a family based company that manages seven pastoral properties in the far north of South Australia.

Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre covers a huge 144 kilometres by 77 kilometres. It’s a natural wonder and whether the lake is full of water or totally dry, the incredible colours and patterns are accentuated from the air.

Once every few years, the endless expanse of shimmering salt crystals give way to the water flowing from a network of channels and streams. A small amount of water generally enters the lake once every 3-4 years, with a larger flood every 10 years. When this happens, the bird and wildlife is abundant.

After touching down back in William Creek we check into our accommodation for this evening is in the self-contained cabins (Ph: 08 8670 7880).

Day Five – TUESDAY 24 AUGUST 2021

(includes cooked breakfast, light lunch and two course dinner)

This morning we set off from William Creek, travelling the path of famous explorer John McDouall Stuart. After a couple of failed attempts, he made the first successful crossing of Australia from south to north and return, in 1862. It was his route that was later used to construct the Overland Telegraph Line in 1872 and inspired the construction of the Transcontinental Railway line which later became know as The Ghan.

Following the Oodnadatta Track, our first stop will be at the lookout at the southern end of Lake Eyre. Yesterday we saw this natural phenomenon from the air and today we take in a different view. It is actually the lowest point in Australia, sitting at 15m below sea level!

From here we continue south, passing various railway sidings before stopping at Coward Springs to stretch our legs and enjoy morning tea.

As we near Maree, we notice something emerge on the horizon. Growing larger as we near, eventually  ‘Plane Henge’ will become more obvious. This work of art features in an unexpected ’sculpture park’ located in the middle of the outback! The work of a Victorian mechanic, Robin ’Mutoid’ Cooke, he makes the journey each year to add a new sculpture created from recycled material.

Maree was once  a major railhead and is the southern starting point for the Oodnadatta and Birdsville Tracks. The town grew from a camp near Hergott Springs, that was built to support workers on the Overland Telegraph Line in the 1870s. The settlement became a base for the Afghan camel drivers and the town developed rapidly when the Ghan Railway reached it in the early 1880s. We stop for lunch and the opportunity to look at the historic highlights of this outback town.

Just out of Maree we stop at the John McDouall Stuart Memorial, before traversing the track further south.

Mid-afternoon, we arrive at Farina. While the town itself is no longer inhabited, it’s a testament to a group of very civic-minded people who are keen to preserve its history. Established in the 1880s as a railhead, when you see the ruins now, it’s hard to believe that in its ‘hey day’ the town had a population of 600. The copper and silver mine closed in 1927 and from the late 1940s families started leaving the town until it was eventually abandoned in the 1980s. For several years now, a committed group of volunteers have been meeting at the site to carry out restoration works and we have time here to wander amongst the ruins.

Before arriving at the small village of Lyndhurst, we stop at the Lyndhurst Ochre Pits. The pits have long been used by the Aboriginal people to extract ochre used for ceremony and trade. The red, yellow and white colours that emerge are striking and the pits are still used by the local indigenous people today.

It is not long before we return to the bitumen road and make our way the short distance to Leigh Creek. Established as a company town to provide housing and services for the people who worked at the nearby coal mine, Leigh Creek now has a population of less than 250 people, due to the closure of the mine in November 2015. The town is now a popular spot for tourists and travellers exploring the Flinders Ranges and outback and our accommodation this evening is at the Leigh Creek Resort (Ph: 08 8675 2025).

Day Six – WEDNESDAY 25 AUGUST 2021

(includes cooked breakfast, light lunch and two course dinner)

Just out of Leigh Creek is Aroona Dam, a huge 5,000 megalitre dam that was built across Scott Creek to provide water to the nearby town. A huge community effort has brought life back into what was a badly degraded area, as it became home to feral goats, rabbits and foxes. Now, in the place of those feral pests there is a reintroduced colony of the shy and timid Yellow-footed Rock wallaby, as well as a variety of other animals, birds and native plant species. The wallabies, which became extinct in the area in 1980, were bred at the open range zoo at Monarto and were reintroduced to Aroona in 1996.

From here we return to the highway and continue to Parachilna. The original township was surveyed in 1863, about 10km away from its present location. It was when the Great Northern Railway was built that the settlement moved. Today the town has a population of seven and there are few buildings that remain, however the most famous is the Prairie Hotel. The hotel’s unique menu and location make it well known with travellers throughout Australia and it wouldn’t be right to journey through Parachilna without stopping to visit

Late morning we continue our drive through the spectacular Parachilna Gorge. As we wind our way through the rocky gorge, you will notice the Parachilna Creek that has cut its way through the landscape. While there may not be water in the creek, its path is obvious from the majestic river red gums that line the banks at the bottom of the gorge.

We will stop at various vantage points to enjoy the views before arriving at Blinman in time for lunch. This town began with the discovery of copper in the 1850’s, followed by the opening of a mine in 1862. Today, Blinman has a population of just 22, but offers important services to the surrounding pastoral community.

Departing Blinman, we travel south, but rather than take the highway, we take the scenic route through Flinders Ranges National Park (weather permitting). Proclaimed in 1945, this 94,908 hectare park protects one of the oldest landscapes on Earth. Renowned for its natural, cultural and geological significance, the Adnyamathanha people believe it was shaped by the ancient serpents and giants of the Aboriginal Dreaming. As we travel through the park we appreciate the beauty of this country – the rugged ranges, spectacular gorges, sheltered creeks lined with river red gums and abundant wildlife.

Our final destination today is Hawker, home of the Jeff Morgan Gallery. An internationally acclaimed artist, Jeff has lived his entire life in the Flinders region and is inspired by the landscapes that surround him.  His gallery features a number of artworks, but the highlights would have to be the panoramas. The Wilpena Panorama measures 30 metres and is a circular painting that provides a 360 degree panoramic view of the magnificent scenery from St Mary’s Peak, the highest point of the Wilpena Pound. The more recent addition is the Arkaroola Panorama, which is a huge 46 metre x 5.5 metre mural. We have time to soak up the beauty of these exceptional works as we listen to special sound effects of native birds. There are prints of fauna, flora and Flinders Ranges scenes, plus other memorabilia that can be purchased.

We meet our wonderful hosts at the Outback Chapmanton Motor Inn (Ph: 08 8648 4100) where we settle in for our last evening of the tour.

Day Seven – THURSDAY 26 AUGUST 2021

(includes cooked breakfast and two course lunch)

We depart after breakfast, taking the Pichi Richi Pass to Quorn, then on to Wilmington where we stop for morning tea.

Enjoying the scenery of the southern Flinders Ranges we continue through Melrose and Laura.

Crystal Brook is located in the heart of a productive sheep and wheat growing area. This quiet rural town was proclaimed in 1873 following the establishment of pastoral company of a similar name 30 years earlier. We enjoy the country hospitality as we stop for lunch at a local hotel.

We continue south through Snowtown and Lochiel before turning onto the Princes Highway once more at Port Wakefield.

By late afternoon, we near the outskirts of Adelaide and make our way back home with unforgettable memories of our adventure on the Oodnadatta Track and through outback South Australia.